Vexations: Great moments in wacky NYC music history

September 9-10, 1963: Future member of the Velvet Underground John Cale, as well as a dozen other pianists of varying talents, took to the stage at the Pocket Theatre at 100 Third Avenue, to perform the 1893 piece Vexations by the French composer Erik Satie.

Allegedly, according to Satie’s own wishes, the short piece was intended to be performed 840 times in succession. As this is patently absurd, it took the music experimentalists of 1960s East Village to perform it properly. Under the direction of young musician John Cage, the pianists performed all 840 renditions over the course of 18 hours.

And then, because this is the early 1960s, Cale and audience member Karl Schenzer, aka the only person to sit through the entire thing, were invited onto the game show I’ve Got A Secret to reveal their folly to celebrity guest stars Bill Cullen and Betsy Palmer (later to play the mother of Jason Voorhees on Friday The 13th):

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